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Volkert is no stranger to wrestling at state level

This will be Tom Volkert's first time wrestling in the WIAA State Championships, but he is no stranger to wrestling state tournaments.

Volkert qualified for the 2008 WIAA State Championships by taking second place in the 215-pound bracket at the D.C. Everest Division 1 Sectional Tournament on Saturday.

Volkert will be trying to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Brian, all the way to the awards podium at the state tournament. Brian reached the WIAA State Championships twice, including taking second place in the 275-pound Division 2 state bracket in 2006.

Tom Volkert reached the youth wrestling state championships three times, winning a state championship in third grade. He said that experience, plus being at state with his brother, work in his favor at this year's state tournament.

"It's a pretty big place. You can get overwhelmed, but it's nothing that I can't handle," Volkert said.

Volkert, a junior, said his goal is to make it to the state awards podium, but isn't looking past his first match. Volkert, who has a 38-5 record, will face Waterford senior Trevor Weinkauf in the opening round at state. Weinkauf has a 37-1 record.

Special attention has been paid in practice to improve Volkert's wrestling from his feet. His older brother and the Tiger coaches have been working with him to improve in that area and there have been definite results.

In the opening round at sectionals, Volkert dispatched Randy Ptacek of Rhinelander by a 5-1 score. He continued to roll in the semifinals, beating Alex Mitchell of Marshfield 9-1. In the finals Volkert faced Joe Akey of Merrill. It was Akey who beat Israel Neumann of New Richmond in the sectional finals last year. Akey led 4-3 in the third period. Akey was then able to get ahold of Volkert's elbow, getting a late takedown.

Volkert then moved to a second place match against Travis Truhler of Hudson, who Volkert beat in the final seconds in the regional final. This match came down to the final 20 seconds again, when Volkert got a takedown to win 3-2 and lock up his place at state.

Near misses

With only two wrestlers advancing to state from the Division 1 sectionals in each weight, there was no room for error. The Tigers had several near misses.

Brad Gartner placed third at 119 pounds for the Tigers. He opened with a pin, then locked into a battle with Jason Kyle of Wausau West, one of the top-rated 119-pounders in the state, in the semifinals. Gartner led 5-2 in the third period and had an apparent takedown, but no points were called. Kyle was then able to get a takedown, putting Gartner to his back. Gartner tried coming back, but took a 9-6 loss.

In the third place match Gartner manhandled Brad Hetchler of River Falls before pinning him. When Kyle lost in the finals, Gartner was denied a wrestleback. Gartner ends his season with a 42-6 record.

Jon Keller placed fourth for the Tigers at 103 pounds. He opened the tournament by beating Matt Natzke of Merrill by a 7-0 score. In the semifinals Keller suffered a 10-0 loss. In his attempt for third place, Keller lost to Gordon Johnson of Hudson 3-1. Keller ends the season with a 30-12 record.

The Tigers had six wrestlers who were defeated in the first round of the sectional, ending their season. Charlie Gartner lost 10-2 at 125 pounds, leaving him with a 26-14 record for his freshman season.

Justin Gillis was beaten in the 152-pound quarterfinals by a 9-2 score. He ends the season with a 15-15 record.

Senior Cole Johnston lost by a 13-0 score in the opening round, leaving him with a 20-13 record for the season.

"Cole was a great example of how to work hard and be a quiet leader," Tiger coach Mark Neumann said about the only New Richmond senior to reach sectionals.

One of the "feel good" stories of the day for the Tigers was junior Quinn Brophy at 171 pounds. Brophy drew one of the top-ranked wrestlers in the state from Wausau West. Brophy would not allow himself to be pinned. He lost by technical fall, ending the season with a 4-6 record.

Blake Jacobson was leading in the opening round of the 189-pound bracket against Jon Palutke of Rhinelander. Palutke then turned Jacobson to his back and got the pin. Palutke went on to win the sectional championship. Jacobson ends the season with a 22-11 record.

Freshman Joel Neumann was one of several Tigers who was ill for the tournament. He was defeated in the opening round at 285 pounds by Luke Klade of Merrill by a 6-0 score. Neumann ends his season with a 21-17 record.

Junior Jared Kerr was unable to wrestle for the Tigers at the sectional meet due to a shoulder injury suffered at regionals.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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